8/30/2009

Happier Than Thou


Happiness happens. When it happens, I can be happy. When it doesn't, I can just be.

Being happy and being sad are two flavors of the same being. Why insist on being happy? Insist on being.

The irony is, being sad is happier than needing to be happy. Being is fullness. Needing is lack.

In the competitive marketplace of New Age spirituality, happiness sells. Has "happier than thou" replaced "holier than thou"? Permanent happiness is an emotional flat-line invented by pharmaceutical corporations. Whoever said you shouldn't have mood swings? Moods have phases like the moon. Let them come and go: they're not who you really are. Behind moon changes, a changeless sun. So, behind mental or emotional states, a stillness that has nothing to do with happy or sad. It is your core-silence, the silent stillness of Being. Give yourself a break from the labor of maintaining a happy-face. Once in awhile, disobey New Age doctrine. Have M&M's for breakfast, and embrace whatever mood swings your way.

Why is happiness the indicator of spirituality, any more than courage, intelligence, psychic ability, or a positive ratio of muscle mass to body fat? Making any one factor the test of enlightenment is a desperate escape from the final truth that life is simply as it is. Sometimes you feel happy, sometimes sad. So what? Why get stuck in the task of making it all feel the same?

Deeply spiritual souls can struggle with chronic depression. If you're one of them, it's rather insulting to be told you should always be happy. Vapid materialists can be chronically cheerful. Maybe it's in their designer genes.

Genius knows loneliness as well as inspiration. The world's greatest artists sometimes sense the nameless grief. Israel's prophets felt the suffering of multitudes. Jesus was "a man of sorrows." Yet moments of sorrow did not prevent him from bestowing the heart's deepest peace upon his friends.

If we are too blissed-out to feel the ache of Iraq and Afghanistan, the pangs of Dharfur, the groan of oceans stressed, threatened streams, burning skies, cries of earth, and "the still sad music of humanity," then we are using a false happiness to numb the heart. This is not real ananda, real bliss. Real ananda breathes the world in, breaks the heart open, and breathes out compassion.

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